Around the country, cities like Miami, Cleveland and Chicago are developing plans to adapt to climate change, including alternate periods of drought and heavy precipitation. The Saint Louis region, however, is moving more slowly to address changing climate conditions, according to a three-part series published this week by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The region’s planning agency, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, is aware of the need to prepare for new climate conditions but no concerted plan has been developed. The Council’s research director, John Posey, told the Post-Dispatch: “A lot of people, when they hear climate change, the first thing they think is sea-level rise. But I think in recent years people have come to realize that all regions are affected and not just coastal areas.”
On the state level the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) is seeking a federal grant to help poorer areas in St. Louis County prepare for new climate conditions. In their bid for federal help, DED declares: “Residents face three key threats – river flooding, heat waves and severe storms that include high winds, hail, flash flooding, and tornados.”
The DED application goes on to state: “The potential for significant damage could be characterized as a perfect storm due to the following: a dense urbanized area with little permeable surface; and aging and largely low-quality housing stock primarily located in or near a flood-plain; and over 100,000 residents living below the federal poverty level in a concentration of economically-distressed neighborhoods.”
While rising sea levels are a major concern on the coasts, the Midwest may be looking at more frequent and heavy flooding. According to Ken Kunkel, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “[y]ou can find models that will dry (the Midwest) in the future and models that say it gets wetter. Most models say it gets wetter.” But the increase in rain is not likely to be attributable to slow rains over a long period, but storms that dump a lot at once.